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Life and Religion

When mommy makes mistakes
No one's perfect, not even the world's best matriarchs
Published Wednesday, May 8, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

Even mothers can have pangs of guilt when it comes to comtemplating personal efforts with their children

Mother’s Day is Sunday. Moms across the nation will be treated to breakfast in bed and flooded with well wishes as their children express gratitude for the many sacrifices they’ve made over the years.

Oftentimes a mom can do no wrong in her child’s eyes, but let’s be honest. Even the world’s best moms have made a few mistakes along the way. No one is perfect, and perhaps, no one knows this better than the moms themselves.

Mothers are often their harshest critics. Whether it was a missed birthday or issues balancing the demands of a career with the responsibilities of motherhood, a lot of moms carry feelings of guilt about their perceived shortcomings.

“Generations of women have struggled with (guilt),” said Dr. Cheryl Masters, a psychologist with Cabarrus Family Medicine. “Whether they are stay-at-home moms, working moms or moms who work from home, it is very prevalent. Even when kids grow up and leave the home, it doesn’t stop. You see people talking about the guilt feelings they have even for their adult children.”

Masters said it is normal for moms to have those feelings, and even though it may be uncomfortable, guilt can actually be a useful emotion.

“We have guilt for a reason,” she said. “It causes us to pause and sort of look at our lives and try to make some decisions about whether we have really done something wrong in our relationships with our kids or lived up to what we believe are the right expectations.”
Masters said studies have looked at the function of guilt and found that it can actually strengthen social bonds.

“To have guilt you basically have to have the ability to feel another person’s pain and a desire to maintain a connection with that person,” she said. “So if you take the guilt and do something positive with it, you often can repair a relationship that may have some damage to it.”
However, she said guilt could also be a negative emotion when it is not put in proper perspective.

“Guilt can get pathological where people carry it around all the time,” she said. “It really can hurt you and the people around you.”

Masters’ advice to moms who are struggling with feelings of guilt is to first give themselves permission to make mistakes.

“It’s going to happen,” she said. “We make mistakes, and we move forward.”

The next step is to examine personal goals and expectations to make sure they are realistic. Masters said it is also important to avoid the temptation to compare yourself to other mothers.

“Trust your instincts and try to be strong enough to set your own goals regardless of what your peers may be doing,” Masters said. “Every situation may be a little different. Depending on the demands of life at that time, you may just have to shift your expectations. There are times when the house may be spotless, and other times that may not happen. Flexibility with your expectations is important and not trying to keep up with everybody else but do what is best out of love for your family.”

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